'I’ve been doing this 30 years, and it’s the worst it’s ever been,' said a former VA hospital official.
It's been three weeks since Dr. Ronny Jackson had to withdraw his doomed nomination to run the Department of Veterans of Affairs. And it's been six weeks since Trump fired then-VA chief David Shulkin via Twitter, without giving a reason for the disruptive move.
Today, thanks to Trump, the second largest federal bureaucracy remains leaderless and faces a mass exodus among key officials. There's no sign that the agency will be saved anytime soon.
If Trump's demented plan was to dismantle the VA, which serves more than nine million Americans, he's doing a good job of it.
"You’ve got a huge vacuum of leadership," former V.A. Secretary Robert McDonald recently told the New York Times.
The VA chaos, courtesy of Trump, comes as the troubled agency faces another crisis: It's running out of money for a key health care program.
Yet there's still no movement from the White House in terms of nominating a much-needed, qualified leader.
"What’s worse — having a totally unqualified VA secretary, or no VA secretary? That seems to be the choice we're being handed, here. It’s an insult to all of us," said Will Fischer, director of government relations for VoteVets, in a statement to Shareblue Media.
"It’s a real mess, and one completely and wholly of Donald Trump’s creation. What’s worse is that when he does get around to nominating someone, it will likely be someone who backs his agenda to privatize and destroy our VA. So there’s really no light at the end of the tunnel."
The non-action comes in the wake of the Dr. Ronny Jackson fiasco, where Trump ludicrously tapped his physician to run a $185 billion federal agency. When pressed at the time, the White House couldn’t justify the Jackson pick or say how he was qualified for such a challenging job, other than to say he was currently "active duty" military. (By the way, so are 1.3 million other Americans.)
The White House vetting process for Jackson seemed to be non-existent, leading to suspicions that Trump simply nominated him on a lark. Aides reportedly never took seriously the possibility that Jackson would be the pick.
Jackson's nomination was doomed when more than 20 active and retired military members came forward to complain about Jackson's workplace behavior. He was accused of overprescribing medications and being intoxicated on the job, as well as creating a toxic work culture.
Jackson became at least the 23rd Trump nominee who has failed to be confirmed, or never even made it through the confirmation process, according to a tally from NBC News.
Meanwhile, many senior VA officials have quit. "Sources in and around the VA say that the agency feels rudderless and kind of hollowed out," NPR reported this month.
“I’ve been doing this 30 years, and it’s the worst it’s ever been,” said Dr. Murray Altose, former chief of staff at the VA hospital in Cleveland recently told the Times.
U.S. veterans continue to be victims of Trump incompetence.